I was on Medicaid as a healthy, able-bodied, educated woman. Everybody deserves affordable access to healthcare.

Excuse the boring title. If you’ve been reading my blog you know last year I spent a lot of time talking about unemployment, feeling burned out by the job hunt, all that jazz. What you may not know is that I was on Medicaid for almost eight months of 2017, and how much it helped me have a high quality of life while I was unemployed and looking for work. I am still, even though I now have good health insurance through my job, so grateful that I was able to have Medicaid.

Now, I’m twenty-six, able-bodied, and a white woman with a Master of the Arts from a good Canadian university. You might not picture me as the kind of person who might need Medicaid. That’s where you’d be wrong.  I’ve worked customer service, in college cafeterias, taking care of gardens, being a teaching assistant, and could always  find work because I wasn’t too picky, but holy cow did 2017 throw me for a loop.

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In early 2017 I was turning twenty-six, studying in Canada. I knew when I got back to the United States in April I would have to get health insurance somehow- but no longer through my parents. Due to the Affordable Care Act, my parents were able to keep me on their insurances until I was 26. When that expired, due not having a job, and therefor no income, the ACA website suggested I was eligible for Medicaid. At first I felt ashamed, because I never had to rely on any social safety net before. Then I got angry with myself- I’ve been paying taxes since I was fifteen, when I got my first job, and what were they for if not to help people who were having a hard time? For the first time, that included me, and that was okay!

A hard time I was indeed having. My life, when I came back to America, was fraught with money issues. I got a job back at a boutique in my hometown for a month, just enough to keep gas in my car and help my boyfriend pay rent for a month or two while I filled in shifts for my coworkers. We moved to Missoula, Montana so Logan could start his job, and I began searching for one in mid-June. It took four months, everybody. Four months. I applied to be a barista, a dishwasher, to work at a tourism agency. I did get interviews, but interviews that ended with rejections, though exciting and full of hope, didn’t pay the bills. They were progress but not the sort that paid for an oil change for my car or could help me financially contribute to the home Logan and I were living in.

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I walked around handing my resume out to every business I walked into, dressed-up, ready to smile, shake hands, and show that I was hard-working and smart. I looked for free-lance work writing, editing, and photographing. I was on Indeed and Monster and the city, county, and state jobs job boards, sending in applications and always editing my resume, writing and editing letters of introduction, etc. I applied for remote-work jobs at tech firms to write and do research for them. Missoula is notorious for being the sort of place where you have to know somebody to get a job, and I tried networking, getting friends to help me meet like-minded people. I watched summer fade into chilly fall, and felt powerless and pathetic, a jobless blob.

However, Medicaid made it possible for me to get out of bed every morning. I knew what medical debt is the number one reason Americans file for bankruptcy. I knew that one fall, one person not paying attention and hitting me with their car, one freak accident could land me with the sort of debt that would destroy every plan I had ever made. The security that having Medicaid gave me to live my life, even while I was feeling so ashamed of my inability to find a job here in this well-educated mountain town, made it possible for me to breathe and do things. I felt safe floating the Clark-Fork River on a tire tube with Logan, watching ospreys catch fish in the river and falling under the spell of the smokey summer sunsets. Medicaid made me feel safe hiking in Glacier or even just walking around town on the long walks that eased my stress. That, to me, was invaluable.

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Medicaid allowed me to see my regular dentist. I went to Planned Parenthood for my annual exam. When I had a really bad cold, I went to a clinic and got a prescription medication for very little money, such a paltry amount that even in my broke state I could pay it. I was feeling defeated in most ways, but I knew that even if something bad happened to my health, Medicaid would make it so that I would end up okay, and that the upward trajectory of my life would probably not end. In the end, I barely used Medicaid, but just having my little plastic Medicaid card in my wallet was so empowering. Medicaid made it possible for me to feel safe leaving my home. I cannot express enough what a weight was off my chest because of it.

I saw that on Thursday some states are going to try to mandate that people who have Medicaid work. And here’s my problem with that- people want to work.  Nobody I know wants to just languish. I once Tweeted that America’s national sport was not baseball, but poor-shaming, and this is another example of that. Financially unstable Americans have been dealing with housing and rent price increases, wage stagnation going on for decades, the backlash of a recession that still ripples through our lives, student debt, and many more issues. Some of us are highly educated people who believed that our hard work in school would pay off, but have too many student loans to build savings or keep our chins up. So many Americans live on the financial edge of ruin. The idea that those of us who use safety nets like Medicaid, Section 8, food stamps, etc. are using them because we just don’t want to work, is absolutely ridiculous. It shouldn’t have taken somebody who has had as many opportunities like me four months to find work, but it DID.

Also, if you have to use Medicaid or Medicare or Section 8 or any other state or federal safety net system, please do NOT feel ashamed. It is ingrained in us through our culture and mythology here in America to believe that the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality will make sure that everything ends up okay. The reality that has been proven time and time again is that sometimes even a lot of hard work isn’t enough, and that we have sexism, racism, class systems, and more to reckon with. These things are real and do make a difference in who gets access to opportunities. I believe that there should be no shame associated with needing help and getting it through welfare programs. In fact, if anything, we should expand them, make them easier to access, and encourage people to use them, so that they can afford things they need, and get a leg up, because it is so hard to do so. For me, Medicaid facilitated my ability to job search without being paralyzed by fear that leaving my home could result in some medical event derailing my life. Now, I have a job in a place that helps domestic violence survivors and victims work through our legal system, get housing, and offer them support, options, and advocacy.

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So, to end this post, thank you to the Affordable Care Act for allowing me to stay insured until I was twenty-six through my parents. Thank you to everybody working at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services who helped me get enrolled, who answered my questions, and who made me feel unashamed to use their services. Thank you to the doctors and medical professionals who took me in and took Medicaid as payment for my care. Medicaid changed my life and I barely used it, but just having it there made a huge difference in the quality of life I was able to have.

Moonrise Kingdom: How to win all the things, and then some.

I have seen Moonrise Kingdom twice in the last two days. I can’t tell you that I’ve ever done that with another movie.

The first time, I went by myself. I left feeling all these things that I didn’t know how to put my finger on. The second time, I left teeming with these same feelings, unable to again name them.

The cast is superb. Goddamn it if with one look Bill Murray, playing Suzy’s father Walt Bishop,  can’t make you feel like he’s a lost kitten in a rain storm, or that you just feel so many things. Those eyes have so much behind them, dammit!  At one point, his estranged wife, Laura Bishop played by the effortlessly wonderful Frances McDormand, apologizes for “whatever still stings the most” as they lie in separate beds-  Murray at this point doesn’t even need dialogue to convey perfectly what we are supposed to feel.

Bruce Willis as Police Captain Sharp gave my favorite performance as, in Suzy’s words, “that sad dumb cop”, tossing desperation, sadness, and the want for more across the screen with such skill and subtlety that I wanted afterwards to find out everything that happened to his character. Edward Norton was amazing as the eager beaver Khaki Scout Master Ward, who also oozes desperation of a frenzied nature. He plays by the rules, and loses at times, but does so with (again) looks that Wes Anderson seems to be able to get to the audience that most movies can’t.

The movie is never intentionally funny. I laughed a lot, sometimes out of sadness, awkwardness, the hilarity of the reality of the situation, etc.- one Khaki Scout is given the task to try making a landyard, and when asked by Edward Norton how it is coming, he grunts, “terrible”- and then shows the rabbit-foot-dangling mess of plastic to the audience. At a painfully real moment, Sam warns Suzy that he might wet the bed as they look over Tidal Inlet 3.25, their ending stop on their adventure, mentioning that he doesn’t want to offend Suzy.

The main characters, Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky, played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, respectively, were also top notch. Their dialogue was believable and still retained the whimsicality that Anderson weaves into his films so deftly. Suzy’s impractical objects she brings on their adventure (a kitten, books, batteries for her portable record player) as a foil with Sam’s (10 pounds of sundrys, a miniature canoe, an airsoft rifle, Tang, maps, a compass, his tent, etc.) shows their obvious estrangement with reality. Sam and Suzy make their characters laced with tragedy and optimism- Sam is an orphan, while Suzy is deemed a “troubled child”- and it seems that the world meant for them to be together. One scene where Suzy lets Sam pierce her ears with earrings he fashioned from green shiny beetles and fishhooks is especially illustrative of how these two find each other to be on the same level that nobody else seems able to reach. Their romantic moments could have easily become vulgar or unrealistic, but Anderson again skillfully maneuvers the audience and his characters into the uncomfortable moments where Suzy and Sam explore their relationship with pangs of awkward reality.

The setting itself is removed from reality. The small fictional Penzance Island that Anderson creates gives the characters another layer of removal from reality- everybody knows everybody, and this comes to the perfect pitch point when a storm hits the island. Tilda Swinton’s character, known as Social Services, comes in a gorgeous blue outfit and crisp dialogue that gives some biting reality to the people, and her interactions with Bruce Willis’s character, though few, are wondrous.

I cannot forget the scenery and the coloring that Anderson tinges his films with. Yellows, reds, and soft browns give much of the movie a Kodachrome-y feel, and filming of the movie is done in that signature quirky eloquent way that we have come to love so much. Anderson’s use of props to glide us into the setting is utterly flawless, and he doesn’t let his audience get hung up on much- the story moves forward with the landscape, an ever changing wild place. The island itself offers so many places for things to happen: the meadow where Sam and Suzy, via wonderful letters, agree to meet; grassy, tree-lined paths that Captain Sharp drives; the tidal coves and inlets that serve as rendezvous points for many of the characters.

Overall, this might be one of my favorite films of his, ever. It had the pangs that Rushmore gave us, with a hint of the drama that The Darjeeling Limited possessed, the same sadness-soaked The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou feeling, and the wonderful props that  filled The Royal Tenenbaums. Although I’m no film critic, I have to say that honestly I felt this was an A+ film.

Tangible Things I Love

Here are a few of my favorite looks from fashion recently. Most of the images are via Style.com. 

Zang Toi F/W 2011. I love the crepe look and the movement in this skirt.

Moschino Cheap & Chic, F/W 2012. Just…everything.

Lino Villaventura, F/W 2012. Foto : Ze Takahashi / Ag. Fotosite

Helsinki street style- I love the textures, the lack of complexity but the amazing textures and fabrics she uses. It’s effortless but so intuitive.

Gloria Coelho, F/W 2012

Dolce & Gabbana shoes, F/W 2012

Carven F/W 2012. I love that it has panels from Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” on it. Too bad the retail is upwards of $1,000! It’s my dream dress, no question.

What does $120,000,000 mean?

Yesterday at Sotheby’s, Edvard Munch’s pastel on board “The Scream” sold for a whopping $119,900,00.00 dollars, to an anonymous phone bidder.

At the most expensive art work ever sold at auction, what does this mean? Why is “The Scream” worth so much? I know that many (superior) websites and blogs have already written about this, but as a vehement fan of everything Edvard Munch, “The Scream” especially draws my attention.

1. It’s the last copy of “The Scream” available !

There are four editions of Munch’s “Scream”- three are in Norweigan museums. Rumors that a family in Qatar purchased the final pastel and board “Scream” are of course, just rumors, but it means that possibly the final “Scream” will be available to those outside Norway. (Unless the anonymous phone bidder was another Norwegian!) Basically, once this “Scream” is gone, there won’t be another coming up for bid unless the Norwegian museums become extraordinarily strapped for cash, which I doubt will occur.

2. This piece is iconic.

This doesn’t really need to be said, but it needs to be emphasized. “The Scream” ranks up with Da Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa” as far as pop culture influence goes. Everybody knows it. Too bad that Munch didn’t live to see his piece become so wonderful. Munch himself was a depressed man who died alone just before Norway was liberated in World War II. His life is punctuated by death, tragedy, and general melancholy. It’s a rare masterpiece by a fantastic Expressionist artist, something to be treasured more for it’s breakthrough technique and feeling rather than just for it’s popularity in our culture.

3. The name says it all.

Artists are a brandthese days. “I own a Matisse still life”, or “Yes, well this is a rare Goya that we have here!” are things that people like saying. Paintings by well known artists, especially good paintings, are harder and harder to come by, as they’ve been mostly snatched up by museums or private collectors. The opportunity to own a Rothko, a Picasso, or even a Munch is not one to be missed. Most of the masterpieces, from the Renaissance onward, are gone, and with them the chance to own a priceless piece of art. Every chance that is there must be seized, so to say.

4. Art is an investment (and a status symbol).

Since the 1990’s, art has been a solid investment of capital. Art prices have not been dipping, and while sometimes at the annual auctions with Christie’s and Sotheby’s the estimates end up being more than the final bid, art has been a winner for a solid 20+ years now. If you have the money, and you want the prestige, art is a perfect place to go. Corporations these days are even beginning to invest in art- notably Deutsche Bank, which has amassed an impressive collection and even gives tours of it’s collection.

5. Money doesn’t really seem to matter to some.

If you can pay $120 million for a piece of art, what can’t you buy? The art market in the last 20 years has underlined the fabulously wealthy and their want for some legitimacy in the world. Russia’s explosion into the art market,  Middle Eastern money, and South American and Asian dealers and elite are all vying for the few pieces that are worth buying, because the price is worth the class that comes with it. If you own eight homes, drive whatever car you fancy, and money is no object, picking up a fabulous piece at an auction seems almost compulsory.

My take on the auction: Money doesn’t matter, clearly, but I hope that whoever purchased “The Scream” makes it available to the public for at least a little while before it becomes cloistered in a private collection. If the bidder were to even let it tour a few major museums first, well, that would be most excellent!

I feel that the significance of “The Scream” was missed a bit, that perhaps sensationalism and rarity drove the price upward rather than the sheer talent that Munch possessed. “The Scream” was first created in 1892- an incredibly early date for such a modern, non-representational piece. It’s pure Expressionism, and much more abstract for it’s time than anything produced in the 19th century. Decades ahead, Munch’s “The Scream” has given the art world a look into his brilliant, tormented mind. I really hope that the significance of the piece isn’t lost on the bidder.

Culture of Anxiety

The more I look at advertising for beauty products, skin products, make-up, etc., I find it’s all about:

Do you have _____? (Insert problem here, whether actual or imaginary)

Well, here is the solution: __________ (Insert “solution” here)

Really, guys?

A majority of the advertising that I see for women and beauty products (and also for men, too!)  focuses on capitalizing on our fear that we aren’t enough: Our eyes aren’t big enough, our lips aren’t soft enough, our skin isn’t flawless enough, etc.- despite the fact that Perfection is impossible, these advertisements make it possible to have Perfection, but only with this equation:

Your Money + This Product

Perhaps I am being overly simplistic, and I am certainly not claiming that ALL advertising plays upon fear, or even that 100% of advertising for beauty products does this, but one must admit that A LOT of advertising plays upon the fear of lacking. That without the product advertised, you won’t get kissed by that gorgeous guy, or your friends won’t admire you, or you might even miss the chance to find your next lover – a few scenarios that have been shown in the media, among others.

Below is essentially a few forms of advertising:

Naturally, it’s been effective for almost a century. Listerine is a GREAT example: It actually had advertisements that suggested that mouth wash would help a woman’s chances of catching a mate because she’ll have fresh breath, and that without it she might be putting herself at risk for BEING ALONE FOREVER!!! (The ad shown is from 1923)

Seriously, though, this form of advertising is effective for making money, but what harm does it do to the psyche and self esteem of people? It would be nice to say that many Americans are media literate enough to realize when they are being tricked into feeling that they aren’t good enough, and that with “x” they could be, but that simply isn’t the case- the fact that these advertisements continue proves this.

My realization is not original, nor is it really anything shocking. I think we all know this. It just gets tiring to be told through multiple mediums that I am not enough, and this exhaustion is surely felt by others.

Picasso

My sophomore year of college, I took an Art History course focused on one of art’s most fascinating figures: Pablo Picasso. It was taught by Professor Stanford, a brilliant and witty professor from Cornwall.

He taught the class as a personal view into Picasso’s mentality as he was creating his works, and he illuminated so much about Picasso for me. I had always wondered why this guy who drew portraits like an insane person was so famous.

Picasso was a born genius, a bad ass, an insanely intelligent and talented man who was extraordinarily prodigious- I think he produced over 30,000 pieces in his life. However, the more I learned about Picasso the artist and Picasso the man, the more I was disgusted by the man.

Picasso, for all his brilliance, was an ass. He was a womanizer who never remained faithful to his lovers, and he loved babies and children. However, as soon as his children were grown, he didn’t want them anymore- the naivete of children did something to him, but as adults they were more nuisances than anything. Paloma Picasso had to fight to keep her father’s last name. He left behind chaos with the various lovers he had, and he seemed to feed off of the drama he created himself.

When people quote Picasso and worship the man rather than the art he produced, I have a problem with that. Morally, he was twisted at best. There is nothing wrong with finding melody and poetry in paintings of his or any of his work at all. However, people should know that the man who created these pieces was a rather cruel person prone to creating heart break, disappointment, and destruction, along with emotional abuse.

To speak personally, when I visited the Reina Sofia in Madrid, I saw Guernica, his amazing masterpiece- and I was emotionally overcome by the violence and pain writhing within the painting. I was touched by this work, utterly entranced, and could have spent hours in front of the painting. However, I was not entranced by the man the more I learned about him.

It’s not a dirty word.

(This is how I felt tonight)

Tonight, I attended a “Gentleman’s Panel” in the lobby of my dorm building. The pretense? Three men, behind a screen, would answer questions anonymously about anything- sex, politics, dating, personalities, etc. Multiple questions regarding physical appearances, preferences for physical appearance, and how they prefer women were asked by the girls in my hall.

I asked the question: “Are you a feminist?”

I didn’t know what to expect. Some small part of me hoped that they’d realize that feminism is essentially equality, and that they’d answer yes.

The three answers were as follows (spoiler: none of them were “yes”!):

First guy: No. Right off the bat, no qualms about it.

Second guy: Not really? If feminism is man-hating and anti-male, no.

Third: Sort of? But not really? Confused?

I was honestly horrified. I was also saddened. Clearly, my campus thinks that feminism is a dirty word, or that it’s entirely all about hating men. They were really unsure of what it is, and they also had some negative ideas about women in general.

Here’s a quote from tonight:

“There is always a hidden motive behind everything”, regarding what women say and do.

Then, their biggest problems with relationships were “communication” and “trust”. The two are definitely related if men think that women are constantly full of these ulterior motives with everything they say and do. The correlation is pretty clear to me. If I say I really like taking walks through a park, it means I like walking through the park. If my boyfriend says that he likes ice cream, I’m assuming that means that he enjoys ice cream.  It goes both ways. (Note: this boyfriend is hypothetical. Although I would enjoy a boyfriend who does like ice cream.)

FEMINISM = EQUALITY.

It is not about hating men, being better than men, feeling superior, etc. Feminism is not about taking away masculinity, it’s about creating a world where parity is possible.

Feminism is about equality in voting, representation, reproductive rights, law, etc.- total equality. It’s about breaking gender roles and stereotypes.

It is not a a dirty word. 

I’m not sure what needs to happen here on my campus, but clearly there needs to be some de-mystifying as to what feminism actually is. It’s clearly seen as a noxious, tainted word that carries all sorts of threatening ideas, when in reality, it shouldn’t be threatening at all. I am not personally attacking these young men, but rather frustrated at the lack of clarity as to what feminism is in general here at Montana State University, for both men and women.

Botticelli

 

(1: Pallas and the Centaur. 2: Primavera. 3: Birth of Venus)

As an Art History major, I like the exact some blockbuster art pieces and artists the world does.

Botticelli is no exception. Just visiting the Uffizi in Florence and crowding into the Botticelli room is a testament to his art. Personally, I find his color schemes fascinating, and I love how he places his figures. The movement isn’t totally natural, and everything is just a little too serene. It’s like this moment of perfect calm before something else happens. His works are teeming with all this tension that is delightful to revel in.

Do you ever make up stories about a work of art?  What are some of your favorite artists and/or works? I’m always looking for new artists to look at!

Right now I’m rather infatuated with Agnolo Bronzino, anything German Expressionism/Die Brücke, Jacques Louis-David, Edvard Munch, Mathias Grünewald, Albrecht Dürer.

Sir Ken Robinson TedTalk

Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity (WATCH THIS!)

I am addicted to TEDTalks. I find them to be startling, amazing, hope inducing, and rather spectacular.

Sir Ken Robinson, knighted for his services to educated in the United Kingdom, gives this compelling TEDTalk. It’s 19 minutes long, but completely, 110% worth it.

He talks about the “hierarchy of subjects” – Mathematics, Languages, then the Humanities, then the Arts. He also discusses how our system is based on the education system developed for the Industrial Revolution, because we couldn’t get jobs otherwise.

Children’s values aren’t appreciated or are actually stigmatized, Robinson notes. He also discusses the EXTREMELY relevant problem of “academic inflation”- that now, the job that required a B.A. now requires an M.A.. Didn’t the New York Times declare the Master’s as the new Bacherlor’s? (Rhetorical question).

Creativity rules, and we need to foster it, rather than relying solely on “practical” or “useful” majors/areas of study.  If you’re procrastinating that paper or looking for a quality way to spend 20 minutes, go here!